They lead, we bleed

A kind of ‘leadership crisis’ is reigning high in the nation what with many political reputations being shredded and many party emperors getting stripped of their new clothes. But with personality driven politics forming the bedrock of this sham of a democracy, the downed leaders will never be totally out.

Instead of defending the defenceless, power, law and public discourse invariably rise to the defence of the indefensible. The real plight of the people rarely raises political hackles but even an imagined slight on a leader can cause havoc. Maybe, the Gods and cine idols too can extract such frenzy from their faithful, but politicos have a clear edge owing to State power. Political parties may mouth lofty pro-people slogans, but preservation of their prima donna remains the prime agent provocateur for all their actions. In such party politics, it is always for the leader, by the leader and of the leader. And tickling their egos is a national obsession!

Many such ‘national issues’ are now on parade. All for the sake of a few leaders with the people hardly figuring in the scheme of things except as viewers or victims. ‘I will give my life for Sonia’, thundered a Cong Minister in a sycophantic fit, when her son-in-law was named in a sleazy deal recently. And when the mother and son duo directly came under the firing line for using party funds to usurp a ‘cherished newspaper’s’ properties, the Cong unabashedly erased even the symbolic legal lines between party and first family. For its part, the BJP, a party that has long ceased to be different, is hell bent on insulating its President Gadkari, even if it means sacrificing its much-touted ideals or the anti-corruption agenda. As an ugly power struggle rages within, the pious party is voluntarily baring all its skeletons. On another note, the whole of Maharashtra is tense and the State’s peace depends on what tense Bal Thackeray would be referred to in the next few days.

The living and ailing leaders apart, there are scores of Lates being lamented at least twice a year, with attendant dangers to others’ lives, limbs, livelihoods and material legacies. If those alive keep kicking up dust to cover their follies, the posthumous potential for trouble of the dead ones is huge. More than a rumour about a leader’s failing health, a stone or a chappal targetted at his inevitable post-death statue is enough to set off riots. Having gotten used to unfettered flattery in their lifetime, many leaders want their names etched in posterity too. They think death would add lustre to their cultivated halo. And by ostensibly revering their own mentors, they choose the easy way to condition their cadre to carry on the charade. Dead or alive, our leaders are great survivors.

And these leaders rarely go alone. The number of civilian deaths, not to speak of that of duty-bound security personnel, caused by dying or dead leaders is huge. Indira Gandhi took with her almost an entire community in the Capital. Though that record remains unbeaten, lesser leaders have netted lesser mortals by dozens as fellow travellers on their last journeys. Many a devout has immolated his self even before the pyre had touched his pet ‘thalaivar’s’ body. The latters’ funeral processions are civic and L&O nightmares. That the nation had come to a grinding halt on several such occasions is not a measure of the ‘greatness’ of those leaders, but reveals the damage potential of their followers.

Indeed, one should cross the threshold of decency to ask if our leaders are worth defending or dying for. While placing of lives on value gradations is tenuous moral and legal territory, it would be safe to say that a political leader’s life is certainly not superior to that of a cadre or a voter. A parasite cannot make such a claim over its host! Of course, there were good souls who merited a higher life-ranking but they themselves, being humble souls too, would not have thought so. Like for instance many faceless freedom fighters, to quote from the modern era. But surely, post-Independence, I cannot think of one public person whose collateral damage to the country can be justified by his or her service. And forget loot via corruption, these not-so-dear-characters have cost the nation dear by draining the exchequer through perfectly legal avenues also, like security, health, maintenance of high-life and several post-power perquisites. And all their political and personal battles are fought at public expense and time too.

Why is the fate of this festering few more important than that of the rest? Why are Sonia, sons, sons-in-law & Co so sacred? Why is Gadkari so indispensable? Why cant ageing, ailing leaders whose souls are longing to rest in peace not leave behind a nation in peace too? And as if the tyranny of the living leaders is not enough, should the dead ones too be lording over us from stone pedestals and sepia photographs?

Clearly the nation can ill-afford its not-so-illustrious leaders, whose ill-gotten money can actually afford anything under the sun!

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Jawahar T R